Sunday, March 25, 2012


Yes, this is a blog about flying (whether I post or not). But today I'm just going to talk about my horse.

Velvet was born on June 12, 1996. A Czech warmblood, he came to America on a 747, spent a while in quarantine, and then showed up in Vegas at my barn. I started riding him at the beginning of the summer, and by the end of it he was about to go to California to a sale barn since no one had bought him yet.

The first year our show association did a class series called the Harvest Classic, I was 14. The day after the show was Velvet's scheduled departure date. I loved my current horse, Sunny (I still do), but she couldn't jump very high and I needed to graduate to a bigger horse. My dad told me if I one the 2'0 Harvest class, he would buy me Velvet. So I did.

For six and a half years, Velvet and I jumped fences, ran around, and ate cookies. He would do anything from leadline to 4', and he had a heart of gold. He was amazingly sweet and would bend over backwards for a treat of any kind.

While he was being leased in California, he got himself into a bit of a situation. He was in a pasture for a while, and thereafter he refused to eat for more than a day, which is extremely worrisome since he normally ate everything in sight. He went to the vet, and after a lot of tests and decision-making, he went into surgery. The vet removed 90 pounds of dirt from his insides and found a piece of baling wire, but overall it went very well and he recovered from the surgery without much excitement. It took a long time, but he gradually got his energy back. He even had the strength to buck some people off.

Last weekend, while I was home for spring break, I rode him in a horse show just for fun. We won a class and got second overall, and I was so proud of him. I was proud of myself too; I hadn't shown for three years. It was painful, but rewarding. As riding usually is.

We don't know for sure what happened, but here's what it most likely was. Late Thursday night, he colicked again. He was in so much pain that he lay down and wouldn't get back up. My trainer, her husband, and her dad found him the next morning and forced him back on his feet. They called the vet, who determined that he needed to go to the clinic. After more tests, they determined that he needed to go into surgery, and quickly. When they opened him up, they found that a portion of his intestine had started to die off.

They said he only would have had a 30% chance of living through the surgery, and even if he did, he would be in horrible pain for the rest of what was likely to be a very short life. So my parents elected to stop the surgery.

Velvet was more than my best friend. He was more than my family. He was everything to me. He kept me safe. He taught me patience and maturity and responsibility. He showed me that love is as pure and uncomplicated as a kiss on the nose. So many people learned so much from him. I love him very much. I always will.

Say hi to your girlfriend Best and don't drive her too crazy. Rest in peace, buddy.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I've been doing my standardization at Embry-Riddle for maybe two weeks now, if that. So far my instructor and I are getting along really well. I can't help but wish I could move on to instrument standardization, though. I miss instrument. It was good stuff. And I'd rather build up my necessary hours doing that than random VFR flights. I need to get 135 hours with them before I can start commercial. That's a lot. D:

Having done the vast majority of my training in a steam-gauge Warrior, I haven't yet befriended the G1000 172. My landings still need a lot of help, and I seem to fly better on the standby instruments than with the whole panel. I'm glad I learned round dials first, though. I couldn't imagine learning this first and then trying to transition backwards. We're working on emergency procedures now, so hopefully I'll finish them up soon. I keep forgetting where everything is.

In other news, I scheduled my flight to Seattle for our flying event in March! I want to actually rent a plane and fly people this time. Last time I was three days shy of a license, but this time should be fine as long as the weather doesn't suck. Come on, Washington. Be nice for once.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Instrument win!

Passed my instrument checkride today! The writeup is going to be way shorter than the one for private, mainly because this checkride was easier.

YES, IT IS POSSIBLE. Instrument can be easier than private. I'm not sure how, but it was.

I've noticed a few trends in my checkride-taking.

1. The weather will be terrible on the first scheduled day. This day will be followed by perfect weather.
2. Someone somewhere is going to write on my paperwork that I am a guy.
3. I need a checkride hug from someone I've flown with.
4. There must be a stuffed animal in my flight bag, named after either an instructor or an airplane.

So, first, I had to scare Eric by jumping at him for my hug because I was freaking out so much. He was in a meeting and left for a bit to come make sure I hadn't hyperventilated into a coma. I felt very much like a lost puppy. "It's okay! You're okay! You can do it! You'll be fine!" "MYERRRRRR."

My checkride examiner was Mike Rogan. He's really laid back and treats everything more like a conversation than a question-and-answer thing. I've heard this is fairly true of most instrument checkrides; it's about scenario-based stuff and not as much have-you-memorized-all-the-things (memorizing all the things is so you can pull them out of your brain when you need them). He had me plan a one-way cross country to Wenatchee. It has some interestingly awkward approaches. We talked about why I picked the one I did (VOR/DME-C because the ILS is hard to plan and not really for us anyway), what altitude to use, why we never get to have Auburn's departure procedure, and some things on the approach plates. He had Jeppesen charts and plates, so when he was asking me about a few things like what did each missed approach point correspond to, I just looked at him funny until he showed me that what he was talking about was only on his charts.

The oral took about an hour, and most of that was going over paperwork and talking about planes and telling stories. "I don't know what to say; you know all the answers." "Oh geez I wouldn't say that." I learned some cool side notes like how CFIIs stay current and how many magnets are in the compass (four). He definitely likes old school instrument flying more than the new GPS stuff.

For the flight, we did the ILS, same approach as a localizer, and GPS, all runway 17 at Tacoma Narrows. The ILS was fine except when they threw me for a loop by telling me to fly the Narrows One Departure for the missed procedure. I didn't have it handy and I don't have it memorized, but the examiner was nice about it and found the one in his approach plates and just read it off to me. Did that, went back to hold at SCENN to get ready for the localizer. They were really busy, so I figured sitting in a holding pattern for a bit would make someone's life easier. It helped. I did partial panel holding for maybe one turn around the pattern, then he gave me the instruments back for the approach. I asked for the published missed out of habit, then I had to go and fly it wrong. I missed the part that said to fly a 290 heading until intercepting the radial off of Seattle, but he didn't fail me for it, just asked where we were going and mentioned it again on the ground.

(If you're following this really closely, you're going to want to open this in a new tab: )

The GPS was where some stuff almost happened. The controller asked if I wanted to start off of JUYCU or FAVDA; I requested JUYCU, but he ended up giving us FAVDA. Problem is, FAVDA is only an intermediate fix, and I couldn't make the GPS sequence from there because it's not an IAF and I'm not magical when it comes to working this thing. You'd think that with all my computer skills I would be a wizard at the GPS, but I spend most of my time arguing with it about why I'm right and it needs to stop being derpy. So the controller told me to go direct FAVDA and start the approach from there. I could get the GPS to either activate the approach - which would have taken us back to JUYCU - or go to FAVDA, which required discontinuing the approach. I switched it back and forth two or three times, then I remembered I could make it do vectors-to-final and fixed all my problems. Well, that's life. No checkride is perfect. We circled to land, did a decent touch-and-go, and ran away back to Auburn. We did unusual attitudes on the way home. Nothing major.

All in all, it was pretty chill. I highly recommend Mike as an examiner. I called Ross and told him how I did. He sounded tired. I think his new job is already zapping the life out of him. Silly instructors. Don't you know that if you stick around and just fly with me, you don't have to do stuff like that?

I got a stuffed sea lion at the zoo the day before yesterday and named it Ross. I sent actual Ross a picture and he was very happy. He was also texting me while he was in class. This must be difficult to do when there are only three people in the class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stage 3/End of Course.

I was under the impression that we couldn't take the stage 3 and end of course flights simultaneously anymore because too many people were doing that and then failing their checkrides. Ross texted me today telling me that my stage 3/eoc flight is on Wednesday. I freaked out for a moment or twelve, but I'm actually really glad they've been combined. It means I might be able to take my checkride before I go home for my birthday. This is an exciting thought.

We had a great last flight together today. It was really windy and made NDB holding terrible as a result, but we made it back alive and I got two high fives out of it. Adding up my logbook was difficult as usual, but Ross made it entertaining by being nearby and doing ground stuff with someone. I am going to miss him so much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Number Five.

Brian, Bryce, Jon, Jesse, and now Ross. Five primary instructors who have gotten new jobs in three months or less of flying with me.

Ross is going to Florida. His last day is the 26th, so even though we're all done with the flying and the syllabus and basically all the ground, he won't be here for my checkride. I know I don't technically NEED him there, but it feels almost as bad as if your instructor isn't there for your first solo or your first solo cross-country. How am I supposed to hug him after the flight if he isn't there to hug? It's just nice to know someone's back there waiting for you and being confident that you're going to be awesome. Blah.

I am going to pass this checkride on my first try because I am awesome and I have learned from two amazing flight instructors who would not have signed me off before now if they did not think I could do it. I just need to study some more so that when we do ground I don't feel like I'm being verbally punched in the brain.

Still, though.


We went and brushed up on the maneuvers today. He had me do slightly turning stalls, which freaked me out a little, never having done them before. I still have issues with steep turns, but I know I can do them, I just have to watch very carefully. Slow flight is lovely, power-off stalls are great, power-ons are much less great but still okay, and unusual attitudes are fine. Weirdly enough, the hardest part of the whole flight was coming back to Auburn and not hitting any of the 200 people that seemed to be out and about. It was fun, and I don't know if it just felt like we were hanging out because it's a lot more laid back than doing approaches or if it's because I was suddenly feeling all "HE'S GOING TO LEAVE, NOW WE HAVE TO HAVE FUN ALL THE TIEMZ ;A;". I told him I'll miss him. He told me I'm moving on to bigger and better things and it was all happy and gooey and friendshipy and I love flight instructors so much.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To Plane or Not to Plane?

EDIT: Thanks, Blogger, for making all the things invisible. I fix now.

So today's story is about flying (as usual), but first I'd like to open with a story about not flying.

I have a friend from way back in middle school who just started college at the University of Oregon, which is in Eugene. I hadn't seen her since New Year's Eve, and now having both a license to fly and access to a plane, I decided an adventure was in order. I asked about taking the plane overnight and tentatively scheduled it for last Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening. I checked the weather at least five times a day. The forecast was lame, then improved, then went lame again. The morning I was supposed to leave, I checked again. It was supposed to be beautiful most of the day, but Sunday was supposed to be cold, cloudy, and crappy (see also: Washington in November).

So, even though it made me sad, I couldn't comfortably say the flight would go off without a hitch, and I canceled it and drove instead. Road trips are always an adventure in themselves because I hate driving and especially by myself. I made it, though, and we had fun (and ate some of the most amazing hamburgers and garlic fries that have ever graced my presence), and then I went home the next day. While I was driving home, all through Eugene, Albany, Portland, and Kelso I could see that the weather was as craptastic as forecasted. There were many times that I thought to myself, "I am really glad I am not in a plane right now, because this is the part where I would be begging Portland Approach to give me an ILS clearance so I wouldn't die. Then there would be paperwork."

Skip to today: Ross and I were scheduled to fly to Hoquiam, commonly referred to by me as the milkshake airport because they have the best milkshakes in the known airport universe. We deliberately didn't eat beforehand because we were going to get food there. It was nice when we left.

The forecast called for winds of about 30 knots at altitude. It was supposed to be nice until we got to Hoquiam, but we should have already landed before it got bad, and then since we were going IFR we could still depart in the 4 miles visibility and 2,000-foot ceiling. The thing I didn't pay as much attention to was the wind. Hoquiam, being a coastal airport, is prone to the same winds day after day: 24 is favored during the day, 06 at night (or either if it's calm). Today, it was a fantastic crosswind of 150 at 21 gusting 29. Ross pointed out that that was far outside our plane's crosswind component of 17, and I kind of knew it, but I didn't want to believe it. I don't know why. This story is about me learning things, not knowing them beforehand.

So we kept going. The turbulence started out pretty mild. I used to be terrified of turbulence, but one day I got over it. I thought I would be over it permanently until we were climbing at 79 indicated and 44 groundspeed. During the approach, the wind decided it would be fun to play with us. We were tossed around so badly that I started getting scared. We would sink fifty feet, then I would put the plane in a climbing attitude and we would sink even more or the nose would be pushed up so far that I had to force it down and shove in the power to keep the thing from stalling. It was like unusual attitudes practice except I was watching it happen.

Sometimes it didn't seem to make much sense. I watched the instruments indicate a climb, but the engine suddenly sped up and I pulled the power back, scared that we were going to be caught in a completely unreasonable updraft and overstress the plane. I don't like when the engine makes noises I'm not expecting. I know when it's supposed to get louder and quieter, speed up and slow down. I may not be an expert yet, but these changes were drastic enough to worry me. It started getting so bad that I could barely make any turns. Forget standard rate. I think we were turning at about a degree per three seconds.

Then there was some disagreement between the GPS and the VORs about our location, so Ross flipped it over to the nice moving map page so I could stop worrying about the specifics of the approach and make sure I didn't run us into the conveniently placed hills that the arc is supposed to help us avoid. I glanced outside briefly and saw them even though seconds earlier it had been raining so hard that the visibility turned everything into IFR even though the ceiling wasn't that low. This was one of those days that I was legitimately afraid.

When we went home, it took me absolutely ages to climb us up to 5,000 feet. My hand actually hurt from hauling on the yoke to keep it in place and not let the nose go too high and stall or too low and stop climbing. I thought we weren't going to make it through 4,900 for a minute. When I finally leveled us off, Ross asked if I wanted him to take the plane for a bit so I could collect myself. It took a few minutes and a few glances outside to see how fast we were outrunning the approaching front (at 144 knots groundspeed, I'd say we were making some pretty good progress), but I did get myself back together. I took over most of the radio calls (which I kindly delegated to Ross by freezing up once the approach started turning to crap) and set us up to go home.

The GPS did something weird when we went back to Auburn. The procedure turn it gives us is supposed to be five miles, but we decided it would take too long (groundspeed 74 on the outbound leg) and shortened it to three. When we crossed the fix, it acted like we hadn't done the turn and wanted us to repeat it. Ross did some stuff to fix it, but then it said "invalid FPL modification" and "approach not active," yet it was giving us the same guidance it always did. Ross had had the airport in sight for a while, so we weren't in any real danger, but still. It was weird. Like arguing with a PC ("Are you sure you want to discontinue the current approach?" = "Are you sure you want to close the program?")

At least my landing was okay. Any landing after Auburn's approach is a good one because you have to pretending you're doing a short field configuration the whole way down since the minima are so high. I still owe him two non-sucky landings from our Friday Harbor adventure.

Lessons learned today include: weather is not to be trifled with; turbulence sucks; and Ross is a wonderful flight instructor.

I finally had to tell him and another instructor that I'm planning on leaving in December. I'm moving to Prescott, Arizona to go to Embry-Riddle and learn to be an air traffic controller. He was kind of sad. I was really sad. I will have to bring cookies again at least one more time and remember to give him his present. I make presents for all my instructors because I love them and I love giving presents to people.

I'm going to miss them all so much. :(

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stage 2!

I passed my second stage check. Given the number of technically stupid things I did (procedure turn instead of parallel entry, forgetting to start the time on the two approaches that needed it, ending up far, far away from the airport on the NDB approach), I'm a bit surprised, but the instructor could tell I knew what had gone wrong and, as he later pointed out, he didn't have to fix it. Still. I feel like I should be better at some of this by now. THAT'S OKAY THOUGH. I'm happy panda.

We did a bunch of approaches at Tacoma Narrows along with another two or three people. The approach controller finally told a guy he couldn't depart IFR out of Spanaway because he had too much traffic to deal with. Even though we were only ten or fifteen minutes away from the airport, it took him a while to get us our clearance. We went through the holding pattern somewhat legitimately for a few minutes waiting to get cleared for the second approach, thinking it was going to take at least five minutes or so, but then he told us if we could be ready for it he could give us the approach right then. So off we went. Whee.

I guess all in all I didn't do that badly, but I know I can do better. Oh well. On to cross countries.